NPR Takes Advice and Features Transracial Adult Adoptee

I recently wrote about how NPR interviewed Angela Tucker, a black adult adoptee, and Rachel Garlinghouse, a white adoptive parent, for a story on transracial adoption. When the story was released, however, only Garlinghouse was featured. Many of us in the adoption reform community found this to be an error in judgment on NPR’s part and voiced our thoughts on the matter. This past weekend, perhaps in response to our strong reaction, NPR opted to feature an interview with a transracial adoptee.

As an adult adoptee who is also a communications professional, I think it was a good decision for NPR to address the concerns raised and show that it is willing to dig deeper into the adoptee experience. I had the privilege of meeting NPR’s interview subject, Chad Goller-Sojourner, at an adoption conference in the fall of 2013. During the conference, he performed part of his solo stage show titled Riding in Cars With Black People. He is a gifted performer and storyteller with an instinctual knack for using wit and observation to express himself. He and I ended up chatting over drinks following the performance and I found him to be just as interesting and intelligent offstage.  It is my feeling that these qualities came through in the NPR interview.

In his NPR interview, Goller-Sojourner, who is black, offered his insightful take on the complex experience of having been adopted and raised by white parents. For Goller-Sojourner, issues regarding identity included those experienced by many adoptees intertwined with issues of race. With the same wit and intelligence I observed in 2013, he provided a glimpse into his world, and perhaps the worlds of other transracial adoptees. I found his thoughts to be thought-provoking and honest.

As is usually the case when adult adoptees share some thoughts on their personal adoption experience, commenters on NPR’s website felt the need to accuse him of being “ungrateful.” Here are some of the comments I read:

And that’s the thanks the adoptive parents get for their love and sacrifice. Sonny boy was unhappy. The family should have adopted a cat or dog. The pet will love you forever!

Is it just me, or does he sound like he isn’t proud of coming from his family?

Sounds whiny, ungrateful and privileged.

Is it just me or does this kid seem ungrateful?

I’m not shocked by these insensitive comments. I have had statements such as these directed at me as well and I find it perplexing. These commenters seem to not realize that, like me, Goller-Sojourner is an adult, in his 40s, who is expressing his thoughts on his personal life experience. He has been an adult adoptee for more years than he was an adopted child under the care of his adoptive parents. This affords him the life experience that informs how he has framed his adoption experience into his personal narrative. It would be much more refreshing and forward-thinking if folks actually listened to what he has to say as an adult adoptee and refrained from lecturing him about how grateful he should be as if he were still a child. He is not a child. And he does not have to be grateful for anything in his life any more than non-adopted adults do.

It is my feeling that this societal tendency to consider adult adoptees as though we are perpetual children is precisely why media outlets such as NPR should consider a shift in focus when it comes to covering adoption. View adult adoptees as the key source of information on the adoption experience and adoption practices. We are the only people who are able to address what it is like to live as an adopted person. And going by the comments on NPR’s website, society has a lot to learn about what that truly means.Watercolor Tree Email Small TransparentMy parents looked just like the same people who were calling me a nigger or porch monkey. … My mother and my parents were in my corner, but it was still difficult to process.

~ Chad Goller-Sojourner

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NPR: Expect the Expected When it Comes to Transracial Adoption Stories

As a journalist who has a passion for news and human interest stories, I have long been a listener of NPR’s programming efforts. I have a two-hour daily commute and NPR often makes it feel as though I have a friendly companion riding shotgun. As with all relationships, however, there are sometimes bumps in the road.

NPR recently contacted and interviewed Angela Tucker, my fellow adoptee and friend. Tucker is a transracial adoptee, subject of the film Closure, writer and former adoption professional. Apparently, NPR was working on a follow-up to an incident involving Melissa Harris-Perry’s show on MSNBC. During a discussion hosted by Harris-Perry, several guests made what many felt were inappropriate remarks about politician Mitt Romney’s transracial adopted grandchild. The comments were made in reference to a photo of the white Romney holding his black adopted child as both were surrounded by his several other white, biological grandchildren.

In keeping with the follow-up nature of its story idea, NPR reached out to Tucker, a black woman who was raised by white adoptive parents. Clearly, she is in the position of providing some context around what Romney’s transracial adopted grandchild might face while growing up with white adoptive parents. NPR also interviewed Rachel Garlinghouse, a white adoptive mother raising three black children. When the story was released as part of The Sunday Conversation special series on January 12, 2014, Garlinghouse was the only one featured.

I have to say that I’m extremely disappointed in NPR’s decision to exclude Tucker from a story on transracial adoption. The organization had a wonderful opportunity to provide a side to the Romney incident that involved the point of view of a transracial adoptee—an adult counterpart to Romney’s adopted grandchild. Instead, NPR went with the white adoptive parent perspective which, in my opinion, is one that has been showcased ad nauseam by the media.

In interviewing both Tucker and Garlinghouse, NPR had the opportunity to offer a more well-rounded story on the topic of transracial adoption in light of the uproar surrounding the photo of Romney and his grandchildren. If the organization had included a natural parent, the piece could have had even more depth. Instead of taking the unexpected route, however, NPR opted for the expected.

As an adult adoptee and communications professional, I would like to challenge media outlets such as NPR to take the road less traveled in adoption. Make adult adoptees the go-to interview subjects when it comes to adoption stories. We are the only ones who can speak to living life as an adopted person. Consider traveling the road with us and getting the real scoop on the adoption experience.Watercolor Tree Email Small 132 x 160I think journalism gets measured by the quality of information it presents, not the drama or the pyrotechnics associated with us.

~ Bob Woodward